Where I found you…

It had been almost a month since I stepped foot into a church, the last time being my dad’s funeral.  When my dad was in the hospital and he hadn’t opened his eyes yet, I made a deal with God; He made my dad open his eyes and I would start going to mass every week.  Going to mass was something my dad always preached to me about because over the last few years I’d stopped going.  So I bargained with God, you give me something and I’ll give up an hour every week for you.  My dad did open his eyes and I had every  intention of following through on our ‘deal’ but when my step mom and brother decided to take my dad off the ventilator to let him die and God let them – all bets were off.  I stayed away from church partly because I was angry at God and partly because I was angry at me.  I’d made a deal, I’d trusted again and was let down…again.  The walls of my life have been lined with the remnants of ‘trusting someone’ yet this time the damage seemed more permanent like an oil slick on a white wall that never comes off no matter how hard you scrub.  Yesterday I changed my mind and I decided to go to mass but even in my willingness to give up an hour for God I knew I was doing it for me.  I hadn’t been able to ‘feel’ my dad’s presence since right after his funeral.  I begged and I prayed until my knees were rubbed raw from kneeling by my bedside each night.  Still – I could not find him.  People say that when our loved ones pass they are kept inside our hearts but I never realized that if your heart is boarded up with nails made out of pain and anger, nothing can penetrate it.  So I decided to go to church in hopes that somehow, some way, I’d find my dad there.  I’d left my car parked outside the night before because the kids were playing in the garage while it was raining and when I got to the driver’s side door there was this dove sitting on the roof rack.  I stared at it, it stared back.  I was literally within inches from it and it didn’t fly away.  It just kept making this little purr sound and even when I reached up to touch it, it remained still.  I was so surprised that I ran in to tell my husband and kids to come look and so there we were all standing staring at this dove.  He just kept staring and purring and even when I opened and closed my car door he still didn’t fly away.  I knew I was going to be late to mass so finally I shooed him away with my hand and he flew to the fencepost near my car and watched me drive away.  I believe now that the dove was my father keeping a watchful eye on me making sure I followed through on my part of the bargain with God.  When I walked into the church they were singing, “All are Welcome Here.”  I knelt down to say a prayer, the doors of my heart slowly creaked open and before I could raise my eyes to see that the bishop was saying mass – I found him there.  My heart swelled and I took a deep breath hoping to open it wider to take in as much of him as I could.  “Oh papa where have you been,” I whispered.  During the homily the bishop talked about forgiveness and how it often is the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do.  I felt like he was talking to me; like he was standing up on the altar shining a spot light on my life.  I needed to forgive my father for leaving, for putting others in control of his life instead of me.  I needed to forgive him to find him so that’s what I did.  There are others that need forgiving but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet and so I just let God know, “I’ll try.”

When I walked out of that church it was the first time in a month that I felt close to my dad again.  I wanted him close, I needed him close but I had forgotten where to find him.  We often misplace the things we need the most; the faith that God can show us the way back home.  I should have known that a church filled with people who had enough faith to give up that hour every Sunday would be the place where I found you. 

Faith is like the blood that runs through your veins; if the vein is punctured it seeps out and causes damage in places we can’t even see.  When faith seeps from the puncture wounds from a life lived, everything is affected – even the parts we didn’t know existed.

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